Although Walmart is spelled with seven letters, to many retailers it is a four-letter word. When they hear that a Walmart is coming to town, they immediately think, “Oh, no, it’s going to kill my business.” But in reality, what they are saying is, “I’ve been in business for many years, and I’ve done nothing to build loyalty among my customers. I have no faith in my product mix or my services, and I have no idea how to compete in any way other than price.” It may sound harsh, but it holds elements of truth. If you are worried that a big-box store is going to take away your business, then you don’t believe in your strengths and you think everyone buys based on price alone.
If you’re going to compete in today’s world, you need to shake off that attitude and sharpen your business edge. First off, don’t totally ignore the big-box stores. Observe and analyze them. Why are shoppers going into the store? What are they buying? How are they being treated? Most especially, what is annoying them? Now take that information and ask yourself how you can do better. Are shoppers frustrated at these large stores because they can never find someone to answer their questions? Make it a point to have all your employees thoroughly informed on all the products you carry, and impress upon them how important it is to offer help if it appears that a customer needs it.
To further pinpoint how your store can compete, ask yourself what makes your business unique. Then ask yourself, “So what?” and “So what?” again until you find that unique selling position and customer benefit. You say customers come to your shop because you have great customer service. So what? So they know that someone will help them, and it will be easy to find a great gift. So what? So it will save them time and effort in finding something, wrapping it, etc. There’s your selling point and benefit. You offer great customer service so shoppers can find the perfect gift without wasting their valuable time. Now promote that benefit to your customers.
Think about how today’s consumers live their lives and what they want. Many of them work full time. Do you have evening hours? Most of them use their computer or smartphone to find information. Do you have a strong website or Facebook page? Do you promote your business through different sites, such as Yelp.com or Yahoo Local? Today’s consumers think of themselves as individuals and do not follow in the footsteps of their parents. Are you following the trends and taking a chance on merchandise that might appeal to this generation?
Don’t get complacent. Embrace change and make it work for you. Sharpen that edge and don’t compete on price; you will always lose.